Your current web browser is outdated. For best viewing experience, please consider upgrading to the latest version.

Contact

Send a question or comment using the form below. This message may be routed through support staff.

Email Article

RSVP

Forum

Vox Clamantis in Deserto: Heather Mac Donald and Glenn Loury on Policing, Race, and Ideological Conformity

Heather Mac Donald Thomas W. Smith Fellow, Manhattan Institute; Contributing Editor, City Journal; a New York Times bestselling author
Glenn Loury Merton P. Stoltz Professor of the Social Sciences, Department of Economics, Brown University
Tue, Oct 6, 2020 EVENTCAST

Thank you for your RSVP.

ERROR
Main Error Mesage Here
More detailed message would go here to provide context for the user and how to proceed
ERROR
Main Error Mesage Here
More detailed message would go here to provide context for the user and how to proceed
search DONATE
Close Nav

Vox Clamantis in Deserto: Heather Mac Donald and Glenn Loury on Policing, Race, and Ideological Conformity

back to top
SEE ALL EVENTS
Forum

Vox Clamantis in Deserto: Heather Mac Donald and Glenn Loury on Policing, Race, and Ideological Conformity

Heather Mac Donald Thomas W. Smith Fellow, Manhattan Institute; Contributing Editor, City Journal; a New York Times bestselling author
Glenn Loury Merton P. Stoltz Professor of the Social Sciences, Department of Economics, Brown University
EVENTCAST 01:00pm—02:00pm
Tuesday October 6
Tuesday October 6 2020
PAST EVENT Tuesday October 6 2020

 

Heather Mac Donald and Glenn Loury are fearless and independent thinkers on topics from police brutality to academic freedom. In this dialogue, these renowned non-conformists will interview each other on issues relating to policing and public safety. Mac Donald and Loury have been vocal—and frequently against the current—on anti-police protests, defunding efforts, and claims of systemic racism. These scholars will discuss where they agree and where they differ in their understanding of this critical and divisive moment in America. Mac Donald and Loury will also reflect on how we move toward greater trust, safety, effectiveness, and justice in policing and community safety.

Event Transcript

Hannah Meyers:

(silence) Good afternoon everyone. I am Hannah Meyers, Director of Manhattan Institute's initiative on policing and public safety. A lead aim of this new effort is to produce innovative thinking on policing, based on empirical research and creative ideas. This requires not only rigorous scholarship, but brave and genuine voices

Hannah Meyers:

Because without the commitment to truthfully articulate what we see, how can we reject what is wrong and move toward what is right? Our two guests today have earned loyal followings for their depth of knowledge, for their gusto in approaching difficult topics, and for their honesty, even when it flies in the face of popular narratives or even niceties.

Hannah Meyers:

I am sure you will share my delicious anticipation of their back and forth today on policing, race and ideological conformity, as they challenge each other on these issues. So I eagerly hand the proceedings over to Glenn Loury to introduce Heather MacDonald and himself, and start off their conversation. Thank you, Glenn.

Glenn Loury:

Thank you Hannah. Hi, I am indeed Glenn Loury, professor of Economics and of International and Public Affairs at Brown University, and I'm delighted to be in conversation with Heather MacDonald who is the Thomas W. Smith fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and also a contributing editor to the Institute's magazine, City Journal, and a prolific writer and a friend. Can I call you a friend, Heather?

Heather Mac Donald:

I would be honored. That's the first time, and can I call you a friend then? Is it reciprocal?

Glenn Loury:

Yeah.

Heather Mac Donald:

Okay, good. Excellent.

Glenn Loury:

Let's be friends, because I really do get a lot out of your contributions to public debate and so on. So here we are talking. I can say a lot about you. I'm suppose to introduce you, BA in English from Yale-

Heather Mac Donald:

Oh, please. This is boring.

Glenn Loury:

... MA in English from Clare College, Cambridge University, JD at Stanford Law, clerking for a federal judge and whatnot, bestselling book, The War on Cops. That was a monster of an intervention and public discussion about one of the most important issues I can think of.

Glenn Loury:

The Diversity Delusion. I know what you're talking about, because I live in academia and the gender and race obsession of my colleagues and our intuitions is fit for criticism, if not outright ridicule, in my humble opinion. But in any case, enough. How are you doing?

Heather Mac Donald:

Well, yeah... I'm getting feedback. You don't have to live in academia any longer to know that the diversity delusion is way out of control. Arguably that is one of the defining features of our world today. As Andrew Sullivan says, we all are on campus now, we're all in gender studies.

Heather Mac Donald:

So, thanks a lot Glenn for being part of an institution that is in the process of tearing down Western civilization, I would argue.

Glenn Loury:

Strong statement, Heather.

Heather Mac Donald:

Well, the gatekeepers are absent. What I'm seeing is the betrayal of gatekeepers. There's not a single art professor, literature professor, head of a classical music organization, that is standing up to the legacy that it is his obligation to defend in the face of these phony charges of racism and sexism.

Heather Mac Donald:

It's terrifying. If this doesn't get stopped, there's going to be very little left that we can love and honor in our civilization within a year or so. But I know that the Manhattan Institute wants us to talk about policing, so I'm afraid I've got us on a different track here.

Glenn Loury:

No, that's okay. I was going to go further down the road, but maybe you're right. I mean I was going to qualify a little bit by saying there are pockets of sanity that struggle on by saying that if you work really hard at it, you can get an education, you can find students who are interested in the great books and the great ideas and so on.

Glenn Loury:

And there's a lot of cowardice and cowering of people who agree with you and me about this basically, but who just are afraid. My inbox is full of letters from people all over this country. I mean dozens and dozens of them saying, "Thank God that you're out there doing what you're doing, but..." and here they tell me a story, "But I can't say anything because my career would be affected, because friendships would be ruined, my life would be miserable." And so on and so forth.

Glenn Loury:

So it is a problem. But yeah, we're supposed to be talking about policing. Heather, we're at a moment of racial reckoning. Whenever a cop, God help us if he's white, shoots a citizen who is black in the process of carrying out their duties, it becomes a federal case.

Glenn Loury:

Mobs gather in streets. Literally, mobs gather in effect around courthouses demanding particular outcomes of judicial process. Politicians bring charges against people on no merit whatsoever in order to placate these mobs. I just wonder hat the heck is going on?

Glenn Loury:

I mean you've been writing about this kind of thing for a long time and it feels liken we've reached a critical moment with the Breonna Taylor's and the George Floyd's and the Ahmaud Arbery's and the so forth of this world, and these incidents. And I should say they're regrettable, because I believe they are regrettable. I think the loss of life is regrettable, because I believe it is regrettable.

Glenn Loury:

But I do wonder whether or not the reactions are doing more damage than they are good, even to the wellbeing of black lives on behalf of which these reactions are offered. And I just want to give you an opportunity to talk about that a little bit.

Heather Mac Donald:

Well, I agree. This is an amazing moment where there's not a single aspect of the criminal justice system that is not under attack and possibly in the process of being unwound because of disparate impact. Anything that a criminal justice system does, whether it's arresting criminals, or sentencing them, if that falls upon a black criminal, not withstanding that that black criminal has been praying on the millions, thousands of law abiding, hardworking black citizens in his community, that criminal justice system is suspect.

Heather Mac Donald:

California's passing a law that would allow any criminal defendant to basically stop the proceedings against him by challenging his sentencing, by challenging the way he was charged, based not on actual evidence of discrimination in his trial, but on statistical evidence that allegedly similarly situated defendants in his position of a different race, i.e. whites, or maybe Asians or Hispanics, were not as severely charged, or not as severely sentenced.

Heather Mac Donald:

This is ridiculous. The statistical evidence rarely takes into account adequately criminal history, the actual severity of an offense, but this is going to stop, in California at least, it is going to stop the possibility of prosecuting gangbangers. And I find it astounding, Glenn, that over the last several months as shooting are going up exponentially in inner city areas, the only conversation we've been having on a national basis is about white supremacy.

Heather Mac Donald:

I've collected just a few of the shootings that have gotten no press response over the last couple months, and I'm only going to read a few of them from the last couple of weeks. But this is what's happening that people are turning their eyes away from. October second, 14 year old girl shot in the West Englewood section of Chicago while standing on a sidewalk. September 26th, 15 year old boy fatally shot in the head on the far west side of Chicago.

Heather Mac Donald:

September one, one year old boy in Kansas City, Missouri, killed when someone walked up to the car in which he was riding and riddled it with bullets. September 15th, 15 year old girl shot to death in St. Louis, September 11th, 14 year old boy killed in drive-by shooting in Northeast Baltimore. September 10th, female mail carrier on the far side of Chicago fatally shot in head, abdomen, legs and buttocks.

Heather Mac Donald:

September seventh, six year old boy shot at the annual J'ouvert party that opens the West Indian Day Parade. August 29th, seven year old girl killed at a family birthday party in South Bend, Indiana. Needless to say those victims are all black children, they compromise just one part of the 40 black children who have been killed in drive-by shootings since the George Floyd tragic death.

Heather Mac Donald:

And we turn our eyes away from them, because they don't fit the narrative, instead we're talking about fantom white supremacy. It is a remarkable failure, I would say, in our public discourse.

Glenn Loury:

The press are playing a fundamental role in this. People are deciding what stories to write about, which broadcast to make, and so what commentaries to offer. What do you think accounts for the coloration of the press's reaction to these problems? I mean what's going on? I really am asking you a question, because I don't know the answer to this.

Glenn Loury:

I mean I understand blatant partisanship, Trump said it, I hate Trump, therefore I have to be against it. This I get. But the pathos, the loss, the tragedy, the pain, the humanity of these situations. Imagine a parent who loses a child at gunshot at five years old, or something like that.

Glenn Loury:

This is a story. I mean I don't care what color these people are, this is certainly a part of our contemporary lives that warrants to be given voice to. I want somebody at the funeral. I want them to interview the parents and the little kids who were the friends. I want them to go to the school where these youngsters may have been going to class everyday and talk to the teachers.

Glenn Loury:

Where are these stories? So this is something I don't understand. Quite apart from partisan politics, why the curiosity about the human dimension of this aspect of our contemporary lives doesn't drive reporters, and maybe not the New York Times, but the Dayton whatever, to cover these things in a greater depth. What do you think about that?

Heather Mac Donald:

Well, not to answer directly, I would point out, and I'm appalled by the rapidity with which the left plays the racism card these days. Again, that is destroying our civilization as well. But in this case I'm very tempted to say that it is objectively racist, because if we change the race on those children who've been killed to white, I have not a moment's doubt that there would be a national revolution, that this would be a huge story, that politicians would be called to account, and the media would be there.

Heather Mac Donald:

If I were a black activist, I'd be furious. If I were a Black Lives Matter activist, I would be furious. We saw what happened with Newtown, Connecticut. Two dozen white children killed, that became the source of public discourse for months on end. Now, they were all at one time, but the accumulative toll in black communities of gang drive-by shootings reaches Newtown, Connecticut's level within months.

Heather Mac Donald:

The remarkable thing and that is another proof that the Black Lives Matter activists, that it's all just a fraud and a sham and a play for political power, is that they don't bring up these black lives. I have never, ever, ever seen a Black Lives Matter activist at some of the very local vigils and protests against this violence that the good people in inner city communities do assemble, without attention from the national media. But the Black Lives Matter activists don't give a damn, because it does not fit what turns out to be an enormously powerful narrative about white supremacy.

Heather Mac Donald:

Capitulation of elite whites to that narrative is so automatic, and the bounty that flows from there capitulation at this point so magnificent in its princely largesse that there's simply no reason to change one's tune. And I would just add quickly, I think what's driving this is that Americans with good intentions are disparing at changing that inner city culture and would rather turn their eyes away from it, because perhaps they fear it is not changeable, which I would disagree with.

Heather Mac Donald:

But that's my explanation for the root cause. I don't know what your explanation is, Glenn.

Glenn Loury:

Yeah, I don't know that I have one actually. I think there's something to what you say about the racism point, it's a deep point. If you really cared about black people, you would stick your neck out of the foxhole of the overture window foxhole of what's permissible to be said and you take a chance.

Glenn Loury:

And you decry, you call thuggery, thuggery. You'd call vicious lack of... contempt for the value of human life, you'd call it what it is. You would be willing to confront. If Joe Biden goes to the bedside of Jacob Blake and then he issues a statement about Jacob Blake. I mean no disrespect to Jacob Blake, no gratuitous disrespect to Jacob Blake, but is he an honorable man? I would have questions about whether or not he's an honorable man.

Glenn Loury:

Whatever may have happened to him, I would have questions about whether or not a presidential candidate should be speaking to the country from his bedside and telling us about his hopes and dreams for recovery. But who's going to write that piece that is going to say no to that kind of behavior?

Heather Mac Donald:

Well, Candace Owens, I mean she basically showed herself to be probably the most courageous person in history by recording a video several months ago about George Floyd and lamenting the fact that the majority of martyrs that are being celebrated now to police violence have very, very questionable backgrounds.

Heather Mac Donald:

They're criminals. And that points out a reality of police violence, that it is overwhelmingly occasioned by criminal behavior or resisting behavior on the part of individuals. That this is something that criminology has known for decades. That the biggest predictor of officer behavior is civilian behavior.

Heather Mac Donald:

If a civilian resists a lawful effort to gain compliance, the officer is going to escalate his own force to gain compliance. And it can ratchet up to tragic levels obviously. Practically all of these shootings could have been avoided if somebody had resisted arrest.

Glenn Loury:

George Floyd, I want to talk about it. And this thing that we're talking about now, the kind of self-censorship and the constrained ability to have an open discourse about what's actually going on for fear of giving offense, or for fear of violating some stricture and coming off looking like you're a racist or like you're indifferent, it affects everybody and it certainly affects even me.

Glenn Loury:

So a friend sends me an email and he says, "A gold casket? Really?" This is George Floyd's funeral. [inaudible 00:19:28] you would have thought it was JFK. Really? I'm thinking, I'm an African American, I'm saying, "Oh my god, look at my people. My black people." I see Al Sharpton doing his shtick. I hear all the mournful recitations of the platitudes and whatnot.

Glenn Loury:

Now to not speak ill of the dead, certainly not speak ill of the black dead brought to death by the hands of a police officer, but come on. Really? What are we saying to our children? I mean here's what I want to argue with people. I say when Obama was elected you told me role models, he's going to change everything. Young black men will have another whatever.

Glenn Loury:

Well, there's a flip side to that. If you make miscreants, not even ne'er-do-wells, bums into your heroes, what are you saying to your children? What are you offering up as a vision about how we, that is now African Americans, should be living. So I mean I guess we can go on like this, Heather, I'm not sure. I should probably try to voice what a counterargument would be here, but I mean, you know?

Heather Mac Donald:

It is heart wrenching to see the nobility, the honor, the courage, of blacks in the first part of the 20th Century who made the best of themselves, who contributed so much to American culture. The musicians, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, with dressed to the nines, giving us beauty, sublimity in their music, in their dignity, at a time when they were subject to such heart wrenching hatred and contempt.

Heather Mac Donald:

And yet they had the broadness and greatness of spirit to keep moving forward in a belief that integration was possible and that they could strive and meet high standards, and that ultimately we would be one culture. And now we have an oppositional culture. The identity of a large portion, not I would say the entirety, but at least of many black leaders and some just black American citizens, is oppositional.

Heather Mac Donald:

The whole anti-white ethic in schools, which defines academic effort as a sellout to black identity. And this is part of a broader movement that just came out of the '60s where you had protests being celebrated as necessarily right, because the Civil Rights protests were necessarily right.

Heather Mac Donald:

But from then on, the idea that America was ineradicably evil, took hold, and now you have people celebrating, as you say, actual some of them thugs, simply because they stand as an opposite pole to authority. But what I would like to ask you, I've been tracing this piece that I have never been able to finish yet, but the whole law and order meme, which is used.

Heather Mac Donald:

The New York Times and the Washington Post endlessly say that every time Trump invokes law and order, that's a dog whistle and that that's a racist phrase. Well, I'd be interested in your opinion on that, is that correct? Because what's weird about that claim is that it implicitly seems to acknowledge what is verboten to be said explicitly, which is that there is an extraordinary disproportionate level of black criminal offending.

Heather Mac Donald:

So if you're talking about law and order, you're going to be talking about trying to protect oneself from criminals who are disproportionately black. Now one wouldn't be allowed to say that in the New York Times. But what is your view, is references to law and order now fatally poisoned by 1950's and 1960's rhetoric, or is that a legitimate campaign platform?

Heather Mac Donald:

I'll show my cards, I think it is. I think the breakdown of law and order these last couple of months is terrifying. We're on the edge of civil anarchy, but how do you respond to that phrase?

Glenn Loury:

I think it's perfectly legitimate. I think indeed it's necessary. I think it's imperative. Frankly I think Obama ought to have used it. I said it. When Baltimore was up in flames after Freddie Gray, when Ferguson, Missouri was up in flames after Michael Brown, the President of the United States, a black man, could have done something that might have spared us this, Heather.

Glenn Loury:

Had he stood up in front of the microphone, instead of saying stuff like, "If I had a son, he's look like Trayvon," and stuff like, I can't quote him, we could do the research, but basically let's not overreact to this thing, give people a chance to blow off steam. After all, they've got a beef.

Glenn Loury:

Instead of saying that, if he had said, as a black man, "The first priority, the first imperative of the government is to secure individuals in their person and their property. No political objection justifies setting fire to anybody's anything. No political objection does it. We are a country of laws and I am the chief law enforcement of the country, and not withstanding my commitment to civil rights and my love of African American culture and my appreciation of the frustrations of people, I, in the office of President must insist..."

Glenn Loury:

He could have said it. He didn't say it. I can't tell you why he didn't say it, but I can say had he said it, in my opinion it could have changed the political possibility set for anybody who occupies that office. Because then the race card argument he's trying to dog whistle to the white racists out there by using law and order, would have no credibility whatsoever.

Glenn Loury:

Trump, or anybody, would be able to say, "Well, wait, wait. Here was Barack Obama, your first black President. I'm the President of the United States, I'm simply doing my job." He could have said, "Had Obama..." et cetera. So who is going to suffer if civil society collapses in these cities? Who are going to be the people, not only from the criminal violence, but also from the collapse of the economic activity as you have pointed out in some of your writing.

Glenn Loury:

I know I'm not going to invest my life savings in opening up a small business on an avenue when I look and see a housing project two miles down the road and I have to contemplate the probability is point 15 that they're going to burn me down if a police officer has to use his... et cetera. I wouldn't do that. I wouldn't make that investment.

Glenn Loury:

So, of course it's legitimate. Now, I can see what a counterargument here might be. They would say this is something that the Republicans have used going back a long way, Richard Nixon et cetera. There are after all people out there who are going to be responsive to, if I say suburbs are endangered by civil disorder, they're going to think suburbs, white, inner city, black, whatever, whatever.

Glenn Loury:

So, they'll say that there's some kind of historical precedent for using the law and order trope as a way to activate the subconscious racism of America politics. But if you're asking me, and I've told you what I think, I believe that President Obama actually ought to have responded quite differently to the civil disorder that took place during his administration.

Glenn Loury:

If he had done so, I think we would have had a very different situation going forward.

Heather Mac Donald:

Well, that was just an absolutely inspiring speech, and I wish you'd been his speech writer. I think you've got a career ahead of you. You've got to get out there more. And that raises an issue when you say it's the argument as well there's a historical precedent for that trope, and therefore when we use it today it must mean the same thing.

Heather Mac Donald:

That's one of the questions that we're facing today with the alleged reckoning with white supremacy and white privilege. How much can a culture change? Is it possible to do in about-face, or is that unrealistic? And I would say contrary to all expectations, if you had looked at the fervor with which segregation was defended as long as possible in the '50s and '60s, and the seeming blindness of the majority of America to its founding violations of principle and their endurance, if you didn't know it today you could say, "Yeah, The 1619 Project that's plausible. Ta-Nehisi Coates, it's the very essence of America to destroy the black body, that's possible."

Heather Mac Donald:

But I would say that the country has changed fantastically. We all talk about white privilege, let's be honest. You don't have to look at these professors who are trying to pass as black to realize that if you have a child applying to college today, he's got a lot better chance if he's black than if he's white. And let's be honest, that applies as well to getting a faculty job, getting a promotion, getting a job at Google, getting a job at Paul, Weiss law firm, getting a job at Bank of America, that it would seem when it comes to the overwhelming experience... now again, one has to throw in the mandatory disclaimer, well, of course there's racists out there.

Heather Mac Donald:

I'm going to do that only to recognize that that's mandatory, but I actually don't believe it's very useful, because those people do not have any effect really on the life course of most blacks today. And if we're going to say that, I insist that we also say let's acknowledge black anti-white racism, which is very real. You don't have to spend much time outside of Sharpton's National Action Network, which I have done, to hear some real anti-white racism, for understandable reasons, but that is pretty ingrained I would say.

Heather Mac Donald:

So, I would argue that we have changed our history and we have to be able to say that, as unrealistic it is. But often Conservatives point out the fact that when it comes to gay rights, that too was just an extraordinary about-face in a period of time that nobody would have expected. So, I think that we shouldn't be held hostage to what was a very blind and very callous history.

Glenn Loury:

Actually if people go back and open up Gunnar Myrdal's two volume Treatise, An American Dilemma, written in the 1930's and '40s and take a look at what he describes as the social situation of the Negro at that time. I think that modal occupation of a black man was farm laborer, and of a black woman was domestic servant.

Glenn Loury:

I think the ratio of median family income black to white was like point four, something like that, 40 cents on a dollar of family income, and it will be like point seven right now. I think the representation of African Americans in the professions was essentially zilch. I'm talking about law, medicine, engineering, and so on.

Glenn Loury:

Segregation was rampant. Lynching was still ongoing et cetera. And this is within my lifetime, I was born in 1948, of transformation. It's really quite remarkable. I don't think you can find another example, frankly, of a country of any size with a substantial racial ethnic minority of subordinated persons who have been held in a kind of serfdom like status whose position within society has improved to the same degree and extent as has been the case for African Americans.

Glenn Loury:

I mean we lose sight of this, because of the little bit of progress remaining to be realize, loom so large in our minds and especially for the activists. But I think a fair historical reading would contradict the narrative coming out of the likes of Ta-Nehisi Coates. But I want to say something else, Heather, and see how you react to it, because you mentioned disparate impact, and I think that's the heart of the matter.

Glenn Loury:

The heart of the matter is there are racial differences in the average rates of success and certain kinds of activities and a failure in certain kind of activities. There's an over representation of blacks amongst people who are in prisons, that's called mass incarceration and it's said to be racist. There's an under representation of blacks amongst people who are achieving outstanding results in some of these academic specialties, and that's called not enough black faculty in the physics department, not enough black faculty in the sociology department.

Glenn Loury:

Universities are beating themselves because there's not enough representation. And what I think we've got is the juxtaposition of two things. I think we've got the fact of this dramatic historical transformation in the status of African Americans from a kind of serfdom into something that's very close to equal citizenship, and in some cases privilege benefits because of affirmative action and so on.

Glenn Loury:

We've got that, but we've also got the persistence of inequality. We've got the over representation of blacks amongst those who are incarcerated, we've got a huge achievement gap in the educational spheres and so forth. And people are just having a hard time dealing with these two things, and it requires a denial of one or the other. It requires saying it's the system's fault. That's where I think systemic racism comes from, it's basically saying yes there are disparities, but no, it's not the fault of African American who suffer on the short end of this.

Glenn Loury:

Yes, there's an over representation of blacks in prison, but no, it's not because they are greater criminal offending, it's because the cops are bias, the laws are bias and so forth and so on. Yes, there's a shortage of black professors, but no, it's not Princeton University declares to the world we've got to do better. Brown University, doubles down its commitment to diversity and inclusion. Harvard University declares diversity inclusion and belonging in the face of the insufficient numbers of African Americans.

Glenn Loury:

The stench of failures is in the air, and people just can't bear it. I say that as a proud African American, failure. Failure to see such opportunities as exist in the society, which opportunities are demonstrated by the fact that others who are not of European origin who are coming to our country in the millions over the last couple of generations, are seizing these very same opportunities.

Glenn Loury:

So that is what I think is at the core of this distemper, and I think it's fraught with all kinds of interesting psychological and really more philosophic aspects. Shame. Shame. Shame at the failure. A kind of bluff, a bluffing that goes on where people dare you to say... they trot the evidence of the disparate impact, they assume that the only acceptable explanation of it is unfair treatment, and they basically dare you to contradict them.

Glenn Loury:

They dare you to call whoever it is, George Floyd, what he actually was. They're daring you to say if you didn't resist arrest, you wouldn't end up in a physical conflict with a police officer, the consequences of which can be fatal et cetera.

Heather Mac Donald:

Well, the cardinal rule in progressive or liberal discourse is thou shall not observe behavior and culture that is dysfunctional when it comes to official victim groups. You're just not allowed to see it. As you say, the only allowable explanation is system and structure. And this began with that book in the 1960s saying you cannot blame the victim. I don't know where that came out of, but that is brutal.

Glenn Loury:

It was Moynihan. It was the reaction to the Moynihan report.

Heather Mac Donald:

I see. Right. So you have to treat blacks as a automata, as people who do not have agency, who are inevitable pawns of structures in which they live, and that cannot make good decisions through their own individual choices. They are doomed and destined to end up in those situations where they are not competitively qualified for a whole variety of jobs.

Heather Mac Donald:

And I've said before, that is to me the basic divide between a conservative and a liberal outlook, is that conservatives are more likely to see large scale outcomes or individual outcomes as the result of bad choices or good choices and decision making, and liberals will see structure.

Heather Mac Donald:

Now both sides are blind, I'm willing to admit that perhaps conservatives are not attuned enough to inherited structural disadvantages, but I think it is as just purely a strategy for success, one's better off erring on the side of, yeah, you've been dealt a bad hand, but you can make certain basic decisions that will vastly improve your lot in life, and this is the success strategy that we've heard about from William Galston.

Heather Mac Donald:

But instead you have elite culture now struggling for any other explanation other than a lack of a fanatical school culture, the disappearance of fathers, which is not only important for any individual child, but is equally important for having a culture that values paternal responsibility and marriage and sends a message to young males that they are expected to develop those bourgeois habits of deferred gratification and self-reliance that would make them acceptable mates.

Heather Mac Donald:

So what we have now is really sort of the pathos of these statue burnings and monument desecration with the idea that if we get rid of some statue in some public park, that nobody for the last two centuries know what the hell it represents and who that person is, but if we get rid of all these statues and names on streets, that somehow black academic achievement is going to improve.

Heather Mac Donald:

I can guarantee you we can throw out everything, we can get rid of Washington D.C., we can tear down the Washington Mall, nothing is going to change because it's not the statues that are responsible for the academic achievement gap.

Glenn Loury:

They're saying that the statues are a symbolic emblem or representation of a history of racial domination and so on. But I agree with you that it's all-

Heather Mac Donald:

It's not depressing effort.

Glenn Loury:

... a kind of symbolic thing and it doesn't get down to cases, it doesn't get down to how kids are being raised, how they're being educated et cetera.

Heather Mac Donald:

It isn't simple.

Glenn Loury:

Heather, I just have to say this, they're also going to say, look, such deficiencies that you see in African American social life, family life and so forth, are themselves the consequences, or at least to some degree, of a history of exclusion and so forth.

Glenn Loury:

They're going to say slavery was a total kind of domination thing where families didn't have a chance to breathe. They're going to say that the denial of access to employment opportunities for black men helped to undermine their standing with the family and encouraged the kind of matriarchal dynamic to evolve and so forth and so on.

Glenn Loury:

So they're going to say, sure, a first order observation would leave us thinking that these people are not behaving properly, but a deeper and more sophisticated historical view would understand that the reasons that the blacks are like this and the Jews are like that and the Asians are like this and so forth, are themselves a product of structural dynamics.

Glenn Loury:

That's what they're going to say, to which I would say, please, really? I can't shape my on life? I'm a puppet at the end of the string being pulled this way and that by historical forces? I don't believe that for a minute. I mean of I believed that, what kind of way of being in the world is it to think that I have no control over what happens in my own life, or in the lives or my children.

Glenn Loury:

I would say, and here I kind of echo Amy Wax, yes, I mentioned Amy Wax, if you step off the curb and a negligent bus driver runs over you, that's obviously not your fault. You're a victim of negligence. But if you don't go to physical therapy, you're never going to walk again. Now whose responsibility is it to get up, go through the painful exercises and recover the facility to walk? It's your responsibility.

Glenn Loury:

Now withstanding the fact that the bus driver should've been paying attention. For me, that's where we are as African Americans. Now it's our responsibility to raise our children, it's our responsibility to make the best of a hand that to some degree has been a bad hand, but it's never the less our... No one is going to do it for us. Nobody is coming to save us. That's the speech I've been giving.

Heather Mac Donald:

Yeah, I was going to mention precisely that, the Amy Wax rights and remedies, and it's not just responsibility, it's efficacy. What she also emphasize is that whether or not we have a responsibility, we can't do it. There is not a substitute. Government programs are not a substitute for fathers.

Heather Mac Donald:

And the idea that there hasn't been massive effort on the part of society as a collective to try and change those urban pathologies is ludicrous. And it's not just the trillions of dollars that have been spent in government transfer programs and social services. I don't know a single wealthy Republican donor who is not trying with, again, true good intentions and goodwill to help people in the inner city, whether it's the after school chess program or guarantees of tuition payments, the idea to get back to this ludicrous meme of white supremacy is ridiculous.

Heather Mac Donald:

I think that the vast majority of whites today have nothing but goodwill for blacks, and those with power exert that power to try and change and close that skills gap to the extent they can. But the question is, has that worked and can it work? It cannot without individual effort.

Heather Mac Donald:

And on the statues and history of discrimination point, I recently reread Trollope's The Way We Live Now, because I was recording a book discussion on George Eliot's Middlemarch with Michael Knowles and I wanted just a comparison of Victorian novelists for style and sort of worldview.

Glenn Loury:

Can I just say this, I love this about you Heather, that you are a very cultured woman, music, opera, literature and whatnot, but you write the most trenchant essays on political and social matters, and that's a rare thing to find, I tell you. So hats off to you.

Heather Mac Donald:

Well, thank you. I wish I could spend all my time on beauty, as I'm sure you do, and not taking on this tragic stuff. But anyway, what was clear in the Trollope was the Frank portrayal at least, and whether it's shared by Trollope one can question, of anti Catholicism, but particularly antisemitism.

Heather Mac Donald:

There's a character in the Trollope Way We Live Now, who's a Jewish merchant, very successful, and he is the target of just absolutely unapologetic, shameless, proud, antisemitism on the part of a family whose daughter is so at her wits end for not being married and she thinks she's becoming an old maid, that's she's actually contemplating marrying this guy.

Heather Mac Donald:

He turns out to be one of the noblest characters in the book. So whether Trollope shares that antisemitism is questionable, but ultimately irrelevant as far as I'm concerned. My point only is that the history of antisemitism, as you mentioned Princeton, that's one of the things that Princeton is currently beating its chest about, but hasn't been antisemitic for decades, but there was very real contempt and hatred for Jews.

Heather Mac Donald:

And they basically said, "The hell with that," and whipped everybody's ass anyway. They put up with the segregation, they gradually worked their way in, but they embraced Western civilization. I mean some of our greatest literary critics have been Jewish and read these books of the English 19th Century Victorians with perspicacity and gratitude.

Heather Mac Donald:

So one doesn't want to sort of play one group off against another, but there are historical examples of the possibility of overcoming societal wide discrimination by [inaudible 00:47:19] of hard work. And we are just not willing to send that message today. Nobody is saying that. It is very curious and it gets back to the original question you posed, Glenn, which is what the hell is going on here?

Heather Mac Donald:

And I repeat myself that I think that whites are preemptively wanting to solidify the myth of bias and the bias explanation, because they don't want to contemplate other possible explanations for the persistence of those large scale inequalities.

Glenn Loury:

Well, other possible explanations include essential or genetically based differences between populations, and that is verboten. We know that that's racist, and we know that that argument is out there. So that should be noted. But you speak of the Jews, and I want to make two points.

Glenn Loury:

One is, if you do so much bean counting that you're telling me about under representation every time there's any kind of selective activity like who gets in the faculty of a great university, and there are not enough blacks, they're under represented. The representation numbers have to add up to one, the fractions, they have to add up to one.

Glenn Loury:

So if there's under representation, there's over representation. I don't know how you go down the road of a discourse about under representation without implicitly inditing the over represented for somehow or another not being deserving of their status. Well, that's going to be the Jews in many cases, so you better think about that.

Glenn Loury:

The other point I want to make is I agree that, as an African American I have had to confront this personally. People have doubt about your abilities. They don't know whether or not you're fit. Now there are a couple of ways of responding to that. One of them is to dismiss their doubt, call them racist, and tell them to go to hell.

Glenn Loury:

Another is to double down your effort and dispel their doubts. "Here, you look at what I just accomplished, you think I'm not fit? Deal with that." There is actually a case to be made for the second way of going about it, because the first way invites patronization, it invites people to tolerate you by saying, "Oh, yes, you're right, you're right. We have to do better."

Glenn Loury:

The second way is a way of power. I have a friend who's an African American scientist and he's always talking about racism in science, to whom I say, "You know what? If Albert Einstein, I think the year was 1903 when he published those three great papers on special relativity, on Brownian motion and on the photoelectric effect. He published three papers in one year, any one of which could have been worthy of a Nobel prize." I said, "If Einstein had spend as much time thinking about being Jewish as you spend thinking about being black, he would have never had time to write those papers."

Heather Mac Donald:

Yeah, he's also not going to get hired today, because a lot of schools now are making diversity commitment and diversity status the precondition to being considered in STEM. School after school in the University of California system, the initial screening procedure is your diversity statement of sufficient enthusiasm and zealotry, or are you going to contribute to diversity, i.e. are you female or minority.

Heather Mac Donald:

And if you don't pass that bar, your application to teach is put in the junk file. It's remarkable. So whether Einstein would have gotten through, whether people that were developing nuclear physics, Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, none of them would have, because they were too involved in the eros of knowledge, of pursuing the ability to understand our universe.

Heather Mac Donald:

So it is truly incredible the diversion of our scientific talent. Somebody sent me a notice from the University of California Davis, a science department that sent around a memo that they'd had a very long conversation about this and they've decided they have to stop calling their weekly meetings within the department brown bag lunches.

Glenn Loury:

Oh, come on.

Heather Mac Donald:

This is what our scientists are doing.

Glenn Loury:

I mean that's just so silly.

Heather Mac Donald:

I'm sorry, it's silly. They're doing it.

Glenn Loury:

Come on, it's silly.

Heather Mac Donald:

I know. Everything is silly. Everything is silly. I don't believe in conspiracy theories.

Glenn Loury:

But it's not serious. They're placating-

Heather Mac Donald:

I don't believe in conspiracy theories, but I'm moving to the point now where I do think it is conceivable that China is the funder of our diversity ideology, because this is suicide. This is scientific suicide.

Glenn Loury:

Okay, Donald J. Trump, his name came up briefly before. We've only got a few minutes and I wanted to raise the name again, because I believe without being able to prove it that the advent of Trump and the schism in our politics that has come about because of Trump's success getting himself elected President, appointing three Supreme Court Justices, it will be soon enough, and the hatred of Trump by many quarters, including some Republicans, is somehow implicated in this moment.

Glenn Loury:

I mean I can't prove it, but I somehow feel that if we ask why is the press not reporting differently, that the answer, at least in part is, because if they did they recon it would help Trump. If we ask why are activist seizing on certain kinds of tropes, I think the heightened sense of their being behind the barricades and under duress because Trump represents a certain thrust in American culture and politics. He's pro life, he's pro gun, he wants a border, he's not an internationalist and whatnot, threatens people in ways that they are then somehow reacting to. I've said enough, I want to hear what you think about the role that Trump's ascendancy and people reactions to it, plays in contributing to this moment of crisis that we're in?

Heather Mac Donald:

I both agree and disagree. I think that you're being way too charitable towards the press to think that pre Trump they were reporting the facts. I mean, Glenn, you know that's not the case. The New York Times has been running its gotcha bean counting stories on diversity in companies, and whether it's gender or sex or race, forever.

Heather Mac Donald:

They've been promoting the racial divisiveness, so I think I see it more as the result of another say let's look at the first iteration of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2015 and 2016. Things are much worse, the what I call the Ferguson effect, we can redub it either Ferguson effect 2.0 or the Minneapolis effect, is much worse, the breakdown is much faster, the crime increases much faster.

Heather Mac Donald:

I attribute that to another five years of poisonous academic ideology, and with all due respect, I agree, Glenn you're right, that it is possible if you were an extremely enlightened student to find teachers like you in the social sciences, in the hard sciences, and you're doing very, very hard work. Those students are working their butts off, but the import or the export from universities today is overwhelmingly this very poisonous ideology.

Heather Mac Donald:

So that's what's going on, is we are becoming more and more of a society marinated in academic ideology. That being said, I think that, yes, the degree of hysteria and the sheer insanity of the mainstream establishment is heightened by the Trump hatred. But never the less, if we got rid of Trump, like for instance here's a thought experiment, there's many people who are optimistic who say when Biden is elected, this all ends.

Heather Mac Donald:

That we open the economy, no more white supremacy talk, no more white privilege trainings. I disagree completely. I think this thing is a juggernaut that is fueled by something that long proceeded Trump. But do you think when Biden is... I'm saying when, not if, and I'm going to make all the Trump supporters very mad.

Glenn Loury:

Yeah, it does look like he's going to be elected.

Heather Mac Donald:

But do you think that we're going to return to sanity, or is Biden going to just continue the left wing agenda, which I think it's a juggernaut right now?

Glenn Loury:

The ladder. I mean we may have a less tortured kind of public schism, I don't know how Trump's people will react to losing. Maybe they'll react better than Hillary Clinton's people reacted to losing. So it may tamp down the temperature a little bit, but I just got a former student who works for the ACLU just sent me a notice saying, "I'm on a taskforce to try to figure out what the Biden administration should do. What are your three best ideas for anti racist policies in the event of a Biden?" These people are getting ready for rolling back everything Trump is trying to do and pushing forward on their own stuff.

Heather Mac Donald:

Right. We may get the amendment. I mean I am such a pessimist that I am not going to rule that out that we get an anti racism amendment to the Constitution.

Glenn Loury:

Oh, no, no.

Heather Mac Donald:

And if that happens, well, we'll see.

Glenn Loury:

We didn't get the equal rights amendment, how are we going to get... and there are a lot more women than there are black people.

Heather Mac Donald:

Because we've had another 40, 50 years of this. We've had more and more people going out into the corporations, into the law firms, into government, into the arts organizations, that have been marinated in this stuff. Again, it breaks my heart to see the head of Julliard, the head of the Met Opera-

Glenn Loury:

We've got 15 seconds.

Heather Mac Donald:

... okay, nobody is defending the civilization, and that's because of the academic culture that is telling us to hate our past and to hate each other.

Glenn Loury:

This is Glenn Loury, I'm with Heather MacDonald. We've been having a conversation, and I have enjoyed the heck out of it.

Heather Mac Donald:
Me too.

Glenn Loury:

But I'm going to give it back to Hannah now, and Manhattan Institute Central, so thanks so much Heather.

Heather Mac Donald:

Thank you Glenn. I look forward to talking to you again my friend.

Glenn Loury:

Me too.

Hannah Meyers:

Well, they say the better the company the darker the conversation. So thank you both for letting us all be flies on the wall as two friends newly codified, discussed some of the most troubling and looming problems around us right now. We are so appreciative of your time and of your thoughts.

Hannah Meyers:

Before we close, I would like to invite our public audience to sign up on our website to receive updates from the policing and public safety initiative, including information on our two EventCasts happening next week. One will focus on different models of police reform, including total department overhaul, and the other on the experiences and perspectives of black police executives.

Hannah Meyers:

On our website you can also browse the Manhattan Institutes research and subscribe to our newsletters. If you are able, please also consider supporting the Institute at the link you see below. MI is a nonprofit organization and our work depends on the support of people like you. Again, thank you to our two fantastic guests. I've never heard such dismal information put forth with so much charm, and it was a delight to listen to both of you. Thank you everybody.

Read More
TOPICS
PolicingProtests
RaceSystemic Racism
Saved!
Close